Father and son duo make Badger history

Idaho State 2024 3A Champion Bonners Ferry Badgers. Jason Duchow photo
Idaho State 2024 3A Champion Bonners Ferry Badgers. Jason Duchow photo

By Piper Banning
Badger Sports Reporter

Nathan Williams - Jason Duchow photo
Nathan Williams – Jason Duchow photo

For Badger junior Asher Williams, the 2023/24 basketball season was special, filled as it was with remarkable achievements, including the Badger basketball team’s first state title, his contributions earning him the title of state 3A Player of the Year. But it wasn’t entirely unexpected. In his freshman year of college, Asher’s dad and coach, Nathan, played on a team that won it all, in his junior year he played with great group of guys for a national championship.

Nathan Williams, Idaho State 3A Basketball Coach of the Year, had been dreaming of this season since the family came to Bonners Ferry nine years ago.

Nathan grew up in inner city Portland in the 70s and 80s when life was much simpler. He struggled in school. English was hard for him. He was in speech classes until the third grade, making school very challenging and frustrating for him.

This struggle created a need for an outlet.

Athletics was that outlet.

Nathan Williams, Whitworth College, 1996
Nathan Williams, Whitworth College, 1996

His love for basketball started in second grade. He loved to compete and compete at something he was halfway decent at. Nathan talks about his love for basketball, and not just the game … but those two special teams, just like this Badger team, that just clicked, practicing as a team, playing as a single entity, as one. He tried over the years to explain it, but had faith that Asher would find out on his own.

“My junior year in college I did play for a national championship with another group of really great guys,” Nathan said. “However, what Asher and the team accomplished is so special. They, and the seniors before them have turned this program around and put Bonners Ferry on the map.”

While having your dad as a coach has some drawbacks, Asher has long admired his dad’s discipline and hard work and he’s come to appreciate how much his dad gave that his son might one day come to know that singular feeling when a group a players becomes forged into a true team, transcending ego.

Nathan started coaching AAU basketball when his oldest son, Ridge became eligible in the third grade. Asher, in second grade, practiced and traveled with the team, their encouragement and more polished skills pushing him constantly. One lesson that’s stayed and that he constantly shares, Asher said, is that “when coaches’ criticize the little things you do wrong, or slight movements that could be better, always remember … Little things do become big things.”

“Work harder on the little things and watch them add up,” he adds, and “The big things will come together.”

Asher does talk about how hard the balance is between home life and athletics with dad so involved in both aspects. He says that during the season, Nathan was more of a coach than a dad, even at home. But he understands the necessity in that as it has made him a better basketball player and person. And then after basketball season, he’s back to being dad!

Nathan, who came to love athletics in general and basketball in particular under his father’s coaching, knows how Asher feels. Growing up, his dad coached him in football, baseball and basketball, stopping when Nathan reached the eighth grade but leaving his son well prepared for high school and beyond.

“He did an amazing job and gave me his life throwing batting practice, rebounding for me or throwing passes down the field,” Nathan said. “He always supported me in all my sports growing up. What is awesome was my dad was not an athlete at all. To learn drills and how to coach he would go to the public library, because there was no internet then, and read books.”

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Nathan Williams and the Bonners Ferry Badgers
Nathan Williams and the Bonners Ferry Badgers

His mom, he said, was behind the scenes buying cleats, filling out paperwork and helping him take the necessary steps to get in to college and get a degree.

Nathan saw Asher’s potential early.

Asher Williams
Asher Williams – Jason Duchow photo

“Starting in first grade, Asher was fast, athletic, and pretty good size for his age,” Nathan said. “He also was really coachable and had endless amounts of energy. Due to these traits, Asher succeeded in most sports, but really identified with basketball at an early age.

Also, a lot of his hard work and relentlessness I think he developed due to his older brother Ridge. Having an older brother, I think, helps push you and makes you tougher. Asher is a different player than me, but I have to say he is a much better all-round player than I was in high school. Asher and I use to play one on one in middle school, but I believe in eighth grade he finally caught me. His speed and outside shooting ability were just too much for my old knee!”

“When I was a little boy I was always playing basketball with Ridge and his friends,” Asher said, “and they helped me a lot with all of what they know and wanted in life. They always involved me.”

“I try very hard to not favor him or highlight him,” Nathan said. “I also probably coach him the hardest on the team. I think everyone who has seen me coach for several years understands that I try not to favor anyone, but especially my own son.”

Nathan doesn’t accept credit for the remarkable successes of the season, though he’s coached the Badgers to state in each of his four years as head coach of the Badger boys varsity basketball team, nor does he give credit to Asher, who averaged a 3A-leading 28.4 points per game shooting 58-percent from the floor, grabbing six rebounds and averaging two assists per game. Nathan experienced the Zen like transition from individual in a game to player on a team before. To him, March 2, 2024, was Deja vu all over again, but seeing it this time through his son’s eyes.

Champion son and father, Asher William and Nathan Williams
Champion son and father, Asher William and Nathan Williams

Coach Nathan Williams is looking forward to being on the Badger sideline next season.

“It’s my job to keep them focused and humble.” Nathan says of the 2024/25 Badger varsity basketball team, “We definitely have areas to improve on and we’ll definitely miss Trey, Wyatt and Chago next year in the lineup.”

“Asher will be a senior next year and will only improve,” his dad says, “but he still has a long way to go to play at the college level.”

When asked if this Badger team could do it again in 2025, Nathan said. “I do not underestimate this group of boys ever. I believe in them so much and know that they can achieve whatever they want.”

Asher plans to keep working, through this summer, next fall … to keep focusing on the little things, to keep contributing to the team he loves and is privileged to be part of. He thanks Ridge and all his teammates for pushing him to always get better, to excel. His mother, Star, for so willingly giving of herself to drive he and his teammates to practices and games, her pride not given to just her son, but to the team and the school and the community into which her son, she and her family have been welcomed.

And he thanks Bonners Ferry High School Science teacher Judy Wages for pushing him to excel in all his classes so he can do what he is passionate about and play on this team and others. Which is funny, Nathan, now that the season has ended, talks slightly less about basketball for the moment and more about Asher maintaining the 4.0 grade point average that, combined with his Badger athletic power, will open the door to opportunities unimagined.

Asher said he hopes to earn scholarships that will allow him to play collegiate basketball at an elite school and he’d like a career in basketball, but his focus is on the here and now; finishing off his junior year, keeping his skills sharp through practice and camps, staying in shape in the gym and running, staying focused on crowning a well-rounded high school curriculum vitae that he can build upon in college and so be prepared no matter what opportunities arise … if not basketball, maybe business, real estate or physical therapy.

No matter what the future holds, there is one certainty … just as his father is defined by his transcendence from self to team and those men with whom he shared the experience, Asher knows that no matter how many times he might experience what he did this season, if ever, it will never surpass having experienced, after years of practice and hard work and attention to the small things, the singular experience of stepping beyond self simultaneously with this wonderful and amazing group of people who have coalesced into a state far greater than the sum of its parts … a team. Asher and every member of the 2024 Idaho State 3A Champion Bonners Ferry Badgers boys basketball team now share an inextricable bond, a brotherhood that will tie them together no matter how disparate their paths.